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Safety Commission Picks Home Electrical System Fires As 1995 Priority

Release Date: May 19, 1993

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today voted unanimously to select ""Home Electrical System Fires"" as the priority project for fiscal year (FY) 1995, which begins on October 1, 1994. This is the second year CPSC selected this project to address electrical fires in older homes. The Commission estimates that in 1990 there were 42,000 fires involving home electrical wiring, resulting in 340 deaths, 1,370 injuries, and $569 million in property losses. The total annual cost to society was approximately $1.3 billion.

The Commission is particularly concerned about electrical fires in older homes because data show a disproportionately high frequency of electrical-system fires in homes more than 40 years old. Many of these fires occur in homes of consumers who are in the lower socio-economic bracket. About one-third of homes in the U.S. are more than 40 years old. While some of these homes are unoccupied, nearly 29 million of these older residences are occupied by families or individuals. The Home Electrical System Fires project seeks to reduce the number of electrical fires by encouraging the development of a model electrical reinspection code for existing homes. One of the key aspects of the project is finding ways to upgrade the wiring at reasonable cost. CPSC plans to work with code organizations, electrical inspectors, and fire safety experts to promote the electrical reinspection code and to recommend ways to rehabilitate old electrical wiring.

CPSC selects its priority projects according to factors recommended by Congressional committees and several criteria established by Commission regulations. By Commission procedures, priority projects must be identified before the remainder of the agency's FY 1995 budget can be developed. The Commission's seven criteria for priority projects are: frequency and severity of injuries; causality of injuries; likelihood of future injuries or chronic illness; cost and benefit of CPSC action; unforeseen nature of the risk; vulnerability of the population at risk; and probability of exposure to the hazard. In addition, Congressional committees recommend that the Commission limit the number of priority projects and choose only projects that have specific objectives and schedules.

The CPSC selected this priority project as part of its mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. The Commission's objective is to reduce the estimated 28.6 million injuries and 21,700 deaths associated each year with the 15,000 different types of consumer products within CPSC's jurisdiction.

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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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